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Senate okays BPE’s N2.432b budget, vows to go after defaulting firms

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The Senate and House of Representatives committee on Privatisation gave its assent to the 2.432 billion naira 2024 budget proposal of the Bureau of Public Enterprises presented at the Joint budget defense session of the Red Chambers and the House of Representatives on Wednesday.

The members of the National Assembly also resolved to work with the BPE to bring to book firms still owing the Government after they acquired public assets initially owned by the Government. The Senate in its pronouncement also vowed to hold accountable under performing firms.

Director General of the BPE, Mr. Alexander Okoh presented the budget sum of 2,432,824,780 Billion naira (Two billion, four hundred and thirty two thousand, eight hundred and twenty four thousand, seven hundred and eighty naira) was laid before the committee co chaired by Senator Orji Uzor Kalu and Hon Hamisu Ibrahim Chidari of the House Representatives.

Okoh equally acknowledged that the proposed budget is the highest figure ever proposed for the Agency since its existence.

According to the analysis of the proposed expenditure the sum of 1.400 Billion naira was earmarked for personnel cost while the sum of 715 million naira was proposed for recurrent Expenditure and the sum of 316 million naira was set aside for capital expenditure.

In his remark Chairman of the committee Senator Kalu charged the BPE to track down and prosecute companies yet to pay for the Federal Government assets that they acquired. The former Governor also asked that Firms that were still owing the Government after the sale of public assets should also be held accountable including those engaged in illicit deals.

Kalu gave the charge, “We have our money in the hands of people who claimed to have bought Government entities but they have not paid. Within now and next week identify those that have not paid and those that are yet to pay fully including those engaged in shady deals. We will work as a family to go on oversight as you can see this is the first time both chambers are having a Joint budget defense meeting.”

With regards the revenue, the former Abia Governor advocated for the enablement of the BPE to retain 5-10 percent of the Revenue it generates annually. According to the figures submitted by the BPE the following internally generated revenues of; 2.230, 3.730 and 3.271 million naira were generated from the year 2021, 2022 and 2023 respectively.

Kalu held that revenues raked in by the BPE was huge and impressive, stressing that the Agency should be allowed to retain some of percent of the revenues like their MDA counterparts to improve their productivity.

To achieve such, Kalu urged the BPE to enhance their cordial relationship with the National Assembly saying that it would avail them the opportunity to relay their problems for appropriate action. He also told the BPE management that it will no longer be business as usual as the committee members have resolved to embark on intensive oversight functions to monitor the activities of the BPE.

He said, “There are agencies that are generating money and they take some but nothing is given to BPE. First of all ist for the survival of the angry. You can relate more with NASS, not necessarily for anything but to the knowledge of everything by coming to tell us your problems so we can know how to help you.

“I don’t think we have a lot of work to do with you, your budget is not complicated. I want you people to improve your relationship with the Honourable members of the National Assembly.

“You cannot be generating all this money and they don’t keep any for yourself to run the affairs of your organisation. You generate over 2bn to the consolidated revenue fund but because in your organisation, your public relationship with your colleagues is not good it makes the job difficult both in the ministry of finance.

With regards the performance of the 2023 budget the sum of 2.044 Billion naira was appropriated for the BPE, out of the sum released as at November 2023 is 1.610 Billion naira. Out of the 1.610 Billion 1.229 naira was expended on salaries while as at November 381 million naira has been released to the Bureau for Overhead. However the BPE received zero allocation from January to November 2023 from the sum of 47.842 million appropriated for capital expenditure.

Okoh however remained optimistic for 2024 describing it as the best year for the Bureau as a result of the increased budget allocated to the BPE.

He said, “2024 is the best year for BPE. This is the best approbation we have gotten in decades. When you compare it with 2023 it is a significant improvement , in 2023 we had a capital budget of 47 million and in 2024 it’s 3.16 million so we are very grateful for that almost 560% increase, but this is just a proposal we can’t tell how much will be released.

Okoh told the Lawmakers that the proposed sum of 316 million naira earmarked for capital expenditure will be spent on purchase of computers, remodeling of security House and BPE main entrance door, infrastructure and associated equipment, purchase of office furniture and fittings monitoring, evaluation and other Privatization expenses.

He also disclosed that the largest sum in capital expenditure will be used to purchase two units of project vehicles at the rate of 120 million naira.

On his part Chairman House of Representatives committee on Privatisation, Hon Hamisu Chidari stated the house was aware of the challenges faced by BPE after the committee visited the Bureau. Chidari also urged the Okoh led BPE to improve its relationship with the National Assembly in order to surmount those challenges.

Shortly after extensive deliberations the members of the both chambers approved the budget proposal of the BPE via voice votes presided by Senator Orji Uzor Kalu.

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